In France, the terms “black pepper sauce” conjure up a thick, creamy grayish sauce slathered on a large chunk of beef at a Paris bistro. I’ve always been wary of this particular dish –I felt like the sauce was only there to hide (visually and tastewise) the deception that the piece of meat really was. Here, it’s the opposite of that. It’s a vibrant, light, deeply-flavored and exciting sauce that brings out the beauty of all the other ingredients: the grainy noodles, the golden tofu, the crunchy spinach, everything comes together in a big plate of perfection.
I might be in over my head here, but there’s something you need to know; September hasn’t been particularly kind on me and my family –nothing serious, just a lot at once, and clearly not enough sleep to tackle it the right way, so OF COURSE carbs are in order every minute of every day, at least in my head they are. In real life, I try (but often fail) to keep it clean, even though my head is spinning out of control to the point where as I’m typing this post, I’m literally obsessed with the idea of making a chocolate layer cake, and using my daughter’s almost birthday (does half a year + one month count as a birthday?) as an excuse. Anyhoo. In the meantime, dinner still needs to come to the table on a regular basis, and with this recipe I think I nailed it. It’s wholesome and awesome at once. Thank you, magic black pepper sauce, for putting me back on track all the while allowing me to stuff my face with stir fried noodles.
Black pepper stir fried soba with tofu and spinach
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves 3 – 4
For the black pepper sauce:
- 1 tsp freshly ground quality black pepper
- 5 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar (or honey if not vegan)
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and germs removed
- 1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
- 3 tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in 6 tbsp water
For the stir fry:
- 9 oz firm tofu, pat dry and diced
- 10.5 oz soba noodles
- 10.5 oz fresh spinach leaves, rinsed
- 2 – 3 tbsp sesame oil, for cooking
- sesame seeds, to serve
1. Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling water for 1 – 2 minutes, no more (they won’t be cooked through yet), drain and rinse in cold water to prevent sticking. Set aside.
2. Make the black pepper sauce: puree all the sauce ingredients in your food processor, until smooth. If big pieces remain, remove, then set the sauce aside.
3. Cook the tofu: Heat 1 – 2 tbsp sesame oil in a saute pan or large skillet over medium heat, then add diced tofu and sautée, stirring gently and frequently, until all sides are golden, about 5 to 10 minutes. At the end of cooking, add 1 tbsp black pepper sauce, it will help browning, and sautée until absorbed. Set aside on a plate.
4. In the same pan or skillet, add 1 tbsp sesame oil over medium heat, then add the noodles, the black pepper sauce, the tofu and spinach leaves, stir well and sautée until everything is warm, the noodles are cooked and the spinach are slightly wilted (they don’t need to be wilted all the way through, you can leave a bit of crunch. Add the spinach a bit later in that case.) It should not take more than a few minutes. Serve warm, sprinkled with sesame seeds.
- If you only have shorts chunks of time in the kitchen (which is my case), make the sauce ahead, then cook the tofu, and refrigerate both separately in containers. When ready to eat, blanche the noodles then make step 4, it will be fairly quick.
Source: Pinch of Yum.